Friday Review: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Astrophysics for People in a HurryAstrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have never been very good with math. I can do basic stuff- make change, simple percentages, the kind of thing you actually use in life. But complicated, theoretical stuff? Way over my head. At the same time, I am, like many, fascinated with the search for how all of this vast and complex universe came to be, and where it may be going. Of course, that all involves a lot of math-y stuff.

Until now. Here is astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson with a book that most people can, if not understand fully, at least relate to in a more mainstream way. Yes, I know. He is a bit full of himself, and can come across as kind of know-it-all (and in a way, he does), but you know what? The book was pretty good. He takes a very conversational tone throughout, so you don’t really feel like you’re being lectured at, nor does it read like a textbook. There are jokes sprinkled in here and there. Science-y jokes, and some of them are, well, let’s just say Dr. Tyson should keep his day job, okay? At least he tries. There are no formulas, or math problems other than basic stuff like Einstein’s work. Nothing to solve or try to follow the solving. It’s all done in terms that a layman could understand.

He starts with the big bang, and outlines all the bazillions (not a science term) of things that happened in the first few nanoseconds after, and expands from there to fill the solar system, galaxy, and universe with all its pieces, from the huge to the unseeable. I won’t say that I now understand all of it, but I do have a better grasp on what is out there (dark energy?) than I did before. The scientists who are exploring and extrapolating and imagining all of this are providing us with new insights into who, what, and where we are constantly. Along with the amazement that goes with knowing there are people in astrophysics and theoretical physics that actually understand the math of it all, I also have a new sense of wonder at the enormity of our universe.

The book was a fairly easy read and should appeal to anyone interested in the work of Einstein and the scientists who have come after him and built on his work. With the bonus that you don’t have to be a PhD in Mathematics to get it.

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